The proposition you are pleased to make of dedicating to me your Dictionary of elegant essays cannot but be grateful to me … you are perfectly right in believing me a sincere friend of science & of it’s propagation and advancement …
So much public as well as personal mischief has ensued from the publication of letters either written or pretended to have been written by me, that I am obliged to accompany them with an express request that they may be guarded against that.
To Jonathon H. Nichols, March 9, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders are wary about how others use their names.
Mr. Nichols’ motive in dedicating his book to the new President is unknown. Was it out of devotion or to use Jefferson’s name to promote it? Nor do we know the content of Nichols’ essays. Jefferson took the request at face value, acknowledged the compliment and affirmed himself as “a sincere friend of science.”
The thin-skinned Jefferson had been in the public eye for 15 years. He had experienced his letters written for private consumption being misinterpreted or misunderstood, then falling into the wrong hands, made public and used against him. He neither approved nor denied Nichols’ request but cautioned him against letting that happen here. In an omitted portion, Jefferson even warned Nichols about letting his servants see this letter lest they “pervert [it] to their own advantage …”
If you like, click on the link above and read the footnote. Jefferson’s fears were not unfounded.